Chapter 795: Contract

For the better part of three hours, Vahn sat in Asfi’s office discussing the details of the contract while, back at the Manor, he was explaining the situation to Loki. She wasn’t too happy about the situation but, after hearing about the terms, agreed to let Vahn do as he pleased. The fact that she would be able to use the Hermes Familia members, who were known for their information gathering capabilities, would be a major benefit in the near future. After all, they were going to be contending against Enyo’s forces and would also need to repel the darkness of the City itself. Since the Hermes Familia had dealings with the underside of society for many years, she would be able to make use of their connections to circumvent a lot of potential problems.

Because Vahn knew there was a fair chance that Hermes was plotting around him, something Loki had emphasized several times in their discussion, he had, once again, decided to let Loki manage the more complex matters. He knew that if he interacted with the members too much, especially after reading their details, his empathetic nature would cause him to get wrapped up in a variety of troublesome affairs. Almost every single member of the Hermes Familia was a former slave, many who had been subjected to harsh conditions that would have broken most people. Their lives had been treated with such insignificance that, of the 117 members of the Hermes Familia, only nine of them even had last names…before they had managed to escape, and accept Hermes’ offer, many of them had been treated so harshly that they had never even eaten a meal other than black bread and protein slop that was made from slaves that had died within the labor camps…

After he had gone through all of their information, Vahn knew he would have to seek a reckoning with the Iron Hills after the establishment of Haven. Though he did his best to try and ignore most of the internal affairs, almost everything that he eventually learned about the Iron Hills just made his antagonism towards them even stronger. With this new information, he decided that, not only would he free the majority of their slaves, but he would leave the fate of their former ‘Masters’ up to them to decide. It would be too easy to kill them for their crimes but, with how much pain they had caused others, Vahn understood that it shouldn’t be ‘easy’ for them…

Though he didn’t need to read the document personally, Vahn still went over it all while Sis analyzed the terms to make sure there weren’t any loopholes that could be exploited against him. As could be expected, there were numerous things he would have to be aware of, including clauses that would require him to ‘return’ the goods in good health or he would have to pay a heavy fee. However, except for a few exceptions, there were no penalties if the members ended up dying during their duties, nor were there any clauses protecting the Hermes Familia members from harm. In other words, if he ordered them to kill themselves the day before he was scheduled to return them, they would have to obey without him having to pay any penalties…in a way, the contract favored him a great deal, something Vahn recognized as Hermes trying to play him…

Other things he needed to be aware of was, after purchasing them once, he would have to pay a premium if he wanted to keep them after the end of the terms. There were absolutely no provisions for ‘freeing’ the members of the Hermes Familia, as they had also made vows that made it impossible for them to leave the Familia until their personal contracts had expired. At the same time, not that he intended to exploit them in such a way, any ‘children’ born by the females while under his ownership were considered members of the Hermes Familia. Though he would be allowed to raise them while owning their mother’s, they would have to return to the Hermes Familia after the fact…

This most troublesome clause, for better or worse, was the fact that he could actually ‘liberate’ the members if he managed to complete specific tasks that were annotated in each person’s file. Because of his nature, the moment Vahn learned about this clause he had been compelled to go through each person’s details, including the information about their past, and the terms they had agreed to when forming a contract with Hermes.

These ranged from things like, in the example of Pot, and her brother Pock, Vahn would have to keep Pot for five consecutive years on single-year contracts, each successive year being more expensive. He could get discounts if he managed to impregnate her, and ensure that the children were happy and healthy, as her ‘dream’ was to create a happy family. As for Pock, a Pallum with light brown hair and grey-purple eyes, Vahn would have to help the boy reach Level 6 and help promote him as a ‘Hero’ of the Pallum people. His dream was to be as famous as Finn, the Pallum he aspired to be like to the point of making replicas of Finn’s sword and spear.

The fact that Hermes had left such clauses in everyone’s contract made Vahn unsure of what to think about the troublesome god. Though he couldn’t really agree with the way Hermes treated his Familia members, it was a fate they had chosen for themselves in exchange for some semblance of freedom from tragic circumstances. In normal circumstances, they would have either died or become slaves that were exploited within the black market. There would have been no hope for them if that were the case, excluding people like him coming through and liberating them. Hermes had even included several ways for them to ‘free’ themselves, which is the main reason they sold themselves in the first place.

Though they were able to offer their ‘services’ for prices they had chosen themselves, it was Hermes who set their ‘value’ for purchase. If the members were able to pay up the requisite amount, they would not only be freed from their contracts but would also receive a severance based on how many years had remained on their contract.

When a member joined the Hermes Familia, they would agree to a contract guaranteeing ten years of service. If they reached the end of their contract, they would be allowed to leave at their leisure but their ‘value’ would transfer into a debt that they would have to make monthly payments on. As a result, many of the members took up things like gambling, accepted dangerous jobs, or lowered the prices of their ‘services’ to accumulate more funds. This was the main reason why the Hermes Familia members were known to do anything for money, as it was the best way to guarantee their freedom in the future…

This was inarguably better than being a slave for the rest of your life, but it would depend almost entirely on the amount of effort you put in to growing stronger or earning money. Though the terms seemed cruel, it wasn’t that difficult to become decently strong over a ten year period and the majority of the Hermes Familia members would be able to buy their freedom before their contract expires…if they saved their money and properly planned their finances. Unfortunately, because many of them had gambling habits, the actual rate of people that bought their own contracts were few in number. In fact, to avoid being burdened with a great debt, many members ended up renewing their contracts and dedicating an additional ten years of service to the Hermes Familia.

Though this seemed like an obvious case of entrapment and exploitation, the fact that the members were able to make their own decisions, and set their own prices, meant they actually had a great deal of freedom. Since there were also clauses that would allow them to be freed by their ‘Owners’, it almost made it seem like Hermes wasn’t actually a bad god, even though Vahn couldn’t help but harbor resentment towards him. However, much like he didn’t blame Loki, Anubis, or Freya for their actions, he wouldn’t seek trouble with Hermes over this matter. It was obvious that Hermes, possessing Divinities related to Trade and Mercantilism, came up with this system based on the influence of said Divinities. Yes, it was a system that took advantage of people that were easily exploited, but it also gave them a great deal of freedom compared to the ‘norm’, with several ways for them to earn their actual freedom within very clearly defined terms…

After flipping through some of the more ‘interesting’ files, Vahn turned his eyes up to meet Asfi’s gaze and said, “As I’ve already made a vow to protect the information, you should be able to disclose the terms of your own contract, yes?” Though he had the files of every other member, Asfi’s wasn’t amongst them and, knowing a bit about her background, Vahn was aware things weren’t that simple. She was the Princess of a maritime Kingdom known as Aethiopia, located far to the south of the continent within the Poseidon Sea.

According to the information Loki was able to obtain, Asfi had gone missing after her mother managed to offend Poseidon himself, proclaiming her then sixteeen-year-old daughter’s beauty to be greater than the vengeful god’s concubines. Because of this offense, even though it wasn’t Asfi’s fault, Poseidon had started sinking the ships of the Aethiopian Kingdom and proclaimed that Asfi was so far beneath his lovers that the only suitable mates for her were his pet monsters, Cetus and Brutus. He issued an ultimatum that, unless Asfi was strapped naked to a sacrificial altar and allowed to be publically ravished by his pets, Poseidon would continue to sink the Kingdom’s ships.

Eventually, Cepheus and Cassiopeia, the King and Queen of Aethiopia, under the constant pressure of their people, caved to Poseidon’s demand. As a result, Asfi had been fated to be publically humiliated and likely killed, considering that Cetus was supposed to be a massive sea monster that could capsize ships. If she had been allowed to be ravished by such a creature, death was almost guaranteed, making Asfi nothing more than a sacrifice because of her Mother’s hubris. The simple fact that Cassiopeia didn’t even try to appease Poseidon by offering up herself, considering she was the one who even spread the rumors in the first place, showed that there was more to the situation than made public…

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The biggest evidence towards this was the fact that, around the time Asfi was scheduled to be sacrificed, the ship that was transporting her ended up sinking. Asfi completely disappeared from the Aethiopia Kingdom and, after being accused of sinking the ship to leave them no way out, Poseidon eventually stopped sinking other ships, though not before causing a large tsunami to sweep across the isles. Now, Asfi was publically considered dead and there was absolutely no information about what happened that fateful day, nor how she was able to become a member of the Hermes Familia and keep her identity a secret for so long…

Knowing that she couldn’t foot around the issue, Asfi released a small sigh and, before explaining her circumstances, surprised Vahn by asking, “You have no interest in me as a woman, do you?” This question caused Vahn’s brows to raise, as it was a very peculiar question to ask at the present moment. However, as his brain began piecing together the information, Vahn was able to rationalize what Asfi must be thinking. Giving the context of the situation, Asfi’s question had to be related to her own secrets and must have pertained to her past actions as well. Considering this, Vahn furrowed his brows slightly and said, “Your liberation clause…”

Asfi’s expression adopted a wry smile as she averted her eyes and said, “Because of my circumstances, the duration of my contract with the Hermes Familia is indefinite. Though you can buy my first time, and request other services from me, I am unable to sell ownership of my person to anyone unless they are willing to swear a life-bound vow. Unless you are willing to help me resolve my past grievances, and deal with the internal affairs of my Kingdom, you will be unable to claim ownership of me. Trying to resolve the matters personally is also unacceptable, as such roundabout measures to achieve my vengeance would ensure that I have to stay in the Hermes Familia for the rest of my life. Even if you tried to kill Hermes-sama, my vow also ties my life to his…though it shames me to say, I inherited my mother’s pettiness and, unless I am able to take back my birthright on my own, I would never be satisfied…”

Vahn could see Asfi’s aura flare up, a wrathful red contained within as she spoke about her Mother, something that made Vahn uncomfortable. He knew there were more than a few bad parents in the world, but it still made him feel uneasy to hear someone talk about their parents in such a way. If not for the fact he had also tried to resolve himself to deal with some of his own children one day walking down a dark path, Vahn would probably reproach Asfi’s words. She likely had a legitimate reason to harbor hatred towards her mother, especially considering the circumstances surrounding the incident that forced her away from the Kingdom in the first place.

Though he had gotten much better at controlling his expressions, Asfi was able to see that Vahn was both troubled, yet understanding of her circumstances at the same time. This caused a small smile to appear on her face as, from Vahn’s perspective, her aura began to dim down with a calm azure blue as she said, “In truth, though you may think lesser of me for it, I had intended to try and earn your favor during the time we spent together during the production of your magic items. I’m not sure how much you know of my past, but my worth had been reduced to such an extent that I would have been defiled by a monster to appease the foolishness of others. I figured that, even if I had to dedicate myself to you, it would have been a worthwhile exchange if it meant I could have my revenge…”

At this point, Asfi released a sigh, bringing her left hand up and moving the hair framing her face as a melancholic look passed through her eyes. Continuing her words, Asfi added, “It may have been your perceptive nature, or perhaps you just didn’t consider me a suitable woman, but you distancing yourself from me has broken my pride more than I’d care to admit to others. Thus, though I know I will likely regret it, I must advise against trying to purchase my contract, even if you’re empathetic towards my cause. In truth, I never believed I would be able to return to my Kingdom and, even though I’m not satisfied with how things had turned out, the life I’ve built within Orario isn’t that bad…I’m one of the most famous item makers in the City and, though Hermes is a bit of a pervert, he generally exercises the proper restraint…”

One thing that Asfi was keeping from Vahn, which she hoped he wouldn’t be able to see through, was that Hermes often purchased the various services offered by his Familia members. Though he hadn’t done anything too uncouth towards her yet, Asfi knew that her god fully intended to buy her contract himself if she was unable to meet her goal before she turned thirty. He would sometimes remind her of this fact whenever he was going through his books, teasing her by asking if he should fork over the five million Valis to take her first time. Thus far, other than groping and touching her on occasion, he hadn’t taken things too far but, as the years piled on, Asfi knew he would show less restraint in order to capitalize on her youth. If not for the fact that he preferred more mature women, she probably wouldn’t have even lasted as long as she had…

Though her aura didn’t waver that much, Vahn saw a few thin strands of black and purple in Asfi’s aura, almost indiscernible if not for the fact he had been paying close attention. At the same time, using his body that was currently giving Loki a shoulder massage, Vahn released a sigh. This caused Loki, who had been enjoying the massage with a contented expression on her face, to begin laughing in a mischevious manner as she asked, “Is it that Asfi woman~? When you sigh like that, it is almost always because you’re about to do something stupid for a girl…” Rolling over onto her back, Loki unabashedly traced her hands around her lower abdomen and asked, “So, what are you going to do? Is it going to trouble the Alliance?”

With another sigh, making no effort to hide it from Loki, Vahn began massaging her stomach this time, causing her to release a sigh of her own, significantly more sensual than his exasperated one. While tracing his thumb near her navel, he absentmindedly explained, “I may have to make a life-bound vow with Asfi to help her reclaim her birthright. Given her personality, I’m almost certain the terms would include marriage…” Loki, placing her hands atop Vahn’s, nodded her head and said, “Well, for a Princess to enter a life-bound vow with the person that ‘owns’ her, marriage would be the obvious condition. On the bright side, she wouldn’t really be able to announce it until she managed to reclaim her Kingdom. Since you would still be the ‘owner’, you also have the right to dictate the terms for when and how you help her…though it seems a little troublesome, there aren’t too many disadvantages for you. On the plus side, the Alliance would be able to get its hands on the Aethiopian Kingdom, expanding our power base outside of Orario…”

Vahn knew Loki’s words cut to the truth of the matter and, considering that he wanted to bring reforms to almost every other country, the Aethiopian Kingdom was also on the list. Since their Queen had orchestrated an event to get her own daughter publically shamed and killed, it was obvious that there were more than a few issues back in Asfi’s homeland. The thing that bothered him was that he would have readily provided his assistance in the future, even if Asfi herself never made the request. Now that he knew this was the same as forcing her to stay in the Hermes Familia for the rest of her life, the only way she would be able to return home would be if Hermes himself allowed it. Since she would still be in service to him, Hermes would either become the shadow-ruler of the Aethiopian Kingdom or, considering his nature, marry Asfi himself and become King…

This realization was backed by the fear and trepidation Asfi showed for a brief moment when talking about Hermes’ well-known perversion. Though he didn’t have a reputation for criminal and deviant acts, the number of times he had been caught peeping on the godly baths in Babel tower numbered in the hundreds. At the same time, he could almost always be seen teasing and messing around with the females in his Familia, even though these actions usually earned him a punch or a kick from said girls. Now that Vahn understood the internal system of the Hermes Familia, however, he knew it wouldn’t even be difficult for Hermes to do whatever he wanted, perfectly within the bounds of the system he had established…

Trailing his thumbs around the elastic band of Loki’s shorts, Vahn felt his resolve building as he said, “I’m going to pay double so we can have shared ownership of the Hermes Familia members. I’ll need your help resolving some of their contracts, but I’ll deal with some of them personally, including Asfi’s. I know this will be another inconvenience I’ve shouldered you with, Loki…but…” Though there were a few things he wanted to say, Loki rolled to a sitting position and, surprising Vahn, wrapped her arms around his waist and pressed her head into his chest. In a firm tone, Loki stated matter of factly, “Even if you wanted to conquer this world, I would have stood at your side with pride. Don’t mull over such insignificant matters, Vahn…if you continue insulting my convictions, I’ll have to punish you~.”

Though she had started off serious and solemn, Loki’s finger had found themselves around the belt of Vahn’s trousers, dexterously unfastening the buckle. She then twisted her body around, wrapping her legs around his waist as she raised her head up, a mischevious smile on her face as she licked her lips and said, “The next time you think to try and apologize to me, I’m not going to let you leave my room until you give me another baby…” While speaking, Loki put more strength into her locked legs, pulling herself to a zero-distance with Vahn, pressing her lower body against his own…

At the same time this was occurring, Vahn gazed into Asfi’s eyes and said, “I will not leave you to suffer the whims of Hermes, Asfi…though I can’t deny it will be a little troublesome, your matters will be mine in the future. I can’t promise that we’ll deal with the Aethiopian Kingdom any time soon, but I promise that you will be able to raise your head up high within your homeland once again…” Though it was a little difficult to say such serious words, while he had just started having sex with Loki, Vahn had grown accustomed to expressing different emotions with his two forms, at least on the surface…

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Asfi could sense there was something ‘off’ about Vahn but, hearing the promise contained within his words, she didn’t think there was any hidden meaning in his words. Since he used words saying that her matters would be his in the future, Asfi knew he was aware of what kind of vow she would have him take. Realizing this, she noticed that a giddy feeling was spreading through her stomach and that her heart was beginning to beat progressively faster. In the future, she wouldn’t be able to refuse anything this boy before her asked of her and, even though she had resolved herself to do whatever it took for her vengeance, Asfi had started to feel nervous. Still, even as the feeling started to become overwhelming, her expression didn’t change much as she nodded her head and said, “Then let’s begin…Darling…”

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